line chart

15 posts
Making people jump over hoops

Take a look at the following chart, and guess what message the designer wants to convey: This chart accompanied an article in the Wall Street Journal about Wells Fargo losing brokers due to the fake account scandal, and using bonuses to lure them back. Like you, my first response to the chart was that little has changed from 2015 to 2017. It is a bit mysterious the intention of the...

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Shocker: ease of use requires expanding, not restricting, choices

Recently, I noted how we have to learn to hate defaults in data visualization software. I was reminded again of this point when reviewing this submission from long-time reader & contributor Chris P. The chart is included in this Medium article, which credits Mott Capital Management as the source. Look at the axis labels on the right side. They have the hallmarks of software defaults. The software designer decided that...

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Confuse, confuses, confused, confusing

Via Twitter, @Stoltzmaniac sent me this chart, from the Economist (link to article): There is simply too much going on on the right side of the chart. The designer seems not to be able to decide which metric is more important, the cumulative growth rate of vehicles in use from 2005 to 2014, or the vehicles per 1,000 people in 2014. So both set of numbers are placed on the...

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Charting NICAR Attendance, Over the Years

Next week is the Investigative Reporters and Editors annual CAR convention — the gathering of news nerds from across the world to discuss the latest and greatest in data journalism. This year NICAR, as its known among the nerds, is in Jacksonville, Fla. After attending each year since 2006, I had to skip the convention in 2015 and 2016 because I now live in Seoul. But I’m making the long journey...

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Layered donuts have excess fats and oils

Via Twitter, Nicholas S. sent this chart: It's a layered donut. There isn't much context here except that the chart comes from USDA. Judging from the design, I surmise that the key message is the change in proportion by food groups between 1970 and 2014. I am assuming that these food groups are exhaustive so that it makes sense to put them in a donut chart, with all pieces adding...

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Is this chart rotten?

Some students pointed me to a FiveThirtyEight article about Rotten Tomatoes scores that contain the following chart: (link to original) This is a chart that makes my head spin. Too much is going on, and all the variables in the plot are tangled with each other. Even after looking at it for a while, I still don't understand how the author looked at the above and drew this conclusion: "Movies...

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Story within story, bar within bar

This Wall Street Journal offering caught my eye. It's the unusual way of displaying proportions. Your first impression is to interpret the graphic as a bar chart. But it really is a bar within a bar: the crux of the matter - gender balance - is embedded in individual bars. Instead of pie charts or stacked bar charts, we see  stacked columns within each bar. I see what the designer...

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Sorting out the data, and creating the head-shake manual

Yesterday's post attracted a few good comments. Several readers don't like the data used in the NAEP score chart. The authors labeled the metric "gain in NAEP scale scores" which I interpreted to be "gain scores," a popular way of evaluating educational outcomes. A gain score is the change in test score between (typically consecutive) years. I also interpreted the label "2000-2009" as the average of eight gain scores, in...

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Involuntary head-shaking is probably not an intended consequence of data visualization

This chart is in the Sept/Oct edition of Harvard Magazine: Pretty standard fare. It even is Tufte-sque in the sparing use of axes, labels, and other non-data-ink. Does it bug you how much work you need to do to understand this chart? Here is the junkchart version: In the accompanying article, the journalist declared that student progress on NAEP tests came to a virtual standstill, and this version highlights the...

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Political winds and hair styling

Washington Post (link) and New York Times (link) published dueling charts last week, showing the swing-swang of the political winds in the U.S. Of course, you know that the pendulum has shifted riotously rightward towards Republican red in this election. The Post focused its graphic on the urban / not urban division within the country: Over Twitter, Lazaro Gamio told me they are calling these troll-hair charts. You certainly can...

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